Is the Kik App Really Safe for Kids? Read Here to Find Out.
When my middle daughter got a phone, it was my old one sans Internet access. She could play games, take photos and videos, and text and FaceTime with her friends. This was PLENTY of access for my husband and I, and for her, and this felt like a safe, slow start.
Since this time, I’ve learned a bit more about texting features and apps and I want to share these with you. These are really important for parents to think about before they give their kids access to “just texting.”
So first, a little background
My husband and I are big believers in our kids getting what they need based on what’s going on in their lives, not on their age. So because our middle daughter didn’t have late night activities but was spending some time with friends who we didn’t know, this limited access phone seemed like a good fit for us.
I also really love the concept of teaching one thing (or in this case, one app) at a time
I loved that we could practice safety and communication skills as well as phone habits with one “thing”—texting—at a time. Then we could add in a whole new slew of apps and social media sites to the mix.
This was an absolute benefit and I’m glad that we did this! It was so much easier to teach her what we wanted her to know in this focused way.
BUT, my assumption that “just texting” was going to be easy-peasy and relatively risk-free was WRONG.
We still came across reasons to discuss what’s ok to share and what’s not, and what happens when you delete a message (nothing on the other person’s phone!). We even tackled what to do about chain letters (Remember those? They’re ba-ack!), requests for homework, and unkind texts.
While maybe none of this was a huge surprise to me, alternative texting apps were a surprise!
Lots of kids are using alternative apps to text. So it’s important to know what these are, how kids use them, and what we may need to stay on top of with them.
This article is about Kik, a texting app that a lot of kids start out with. Here’s what you need to know.
Kik is a free texting app that works with a username instead of a phone number. So even kids without phones or texting plans can install and use Kik.
Some important things to know about Kik are:
• “Kiking someone” isn't based on approving followers. As soon as someone has your user name (friends, strangers, bullies), they can Kik you.
• LOTS of kids use the same username on every site. And lots of kids write “Kik me” in their bios or on individual photo captions on parent-approved sites, like Instagram.
• Once a kid has their username set up, if they run into problems with someone un-wantedly “Kiking them,” they can't change their username without deleting the app and starting over.
• It IS possible to block on Kik … but you really have to dig into the app to see how. It is not obvious.
• And you can’t “log out” of the app either. So if a kid is being harassed on Kik, it is easy to feel like they can't get away from it. Even if you turn off your phone, the Kik messages pop up when you turn it back on.
So if your kids are using Kik:
Show them how to both block and start over with the app. Discuss with them when they may want to do these things. Remind them that they can always ask for help or advice – they're never alone or without your support and backup. Maybe even brainstorm what instances might be examples of when they should and can ask for help.
It is also worthwhile to discuss with your kids NOT sharing their Kik name publicly and the kinds of things it is okay and not okay to text or “Kik” someone. Guards tend to be down in texts and private messages like these, so reinforcing these guidelines is really important.
Remind kids that there's not a quick way to check if who they're texting with is really that person. It's up to them to monitor what they share and don't share. This should be consistent and within the guidelines that you've taught them. This is a great example of how important it is to make sure that the door to an ongoing dialogue about this topic is kept wide open!
Kik is just one app of many that our kids are loving today. If your kids are starting to show an interest in the online world, I have a detailed checklist for you to use to help start laying the foundation for an ongoing conversation about their digital use. It’s super helpful and you can get it for free RIGHT HERE.
Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple, no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. You can get her checklist for moms of new(ish) digital kids RIGHT HERE.